Japan and the US hold a joint exercise on February 27, 2023. (Photo from globaltimes.cn)
By Wang Aoduo
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) conducted a joint exercise with the US Navy in Hiroshima Bay and from West of Kyushu to around Okinawa from February 27 to March 12.
Before the drill, Hiroshima's five peace groups, including the organization of atomic bomb survivors, demanded that the Japan-US joint military exercises in Hiroshima Bay be canceled.
Hiroshima Bay drill: Political declaration between Japan and the US.
In 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in order to force Japan, which had launched an aggressive war, to surrender quickly. The bomb caused approximately 200,000 casualties. Military observer Zhou Weizheng believes that for now, Japan and the US chose to hold a joint exercise near Hiroshima Bay has two reasons. The first is to make a "political declaration" and the second is to leverage the significant military value of Hiroshima.
The Japan-US joint military drill in Hiroshima Bay aims, first and foremost, to send a signal to the international community and the Japanese people that the two countries have completely gotten rid of the historical burden and that the Japan-US alliance has reached a new height. Secondly, the area from Hiroshima Bay and the West of Kyushu to Okinawa covers multiple critical straits and waterways. Japan and the US attempt to showcase their "alliance power" through the exercise and put pressure on their opponents. Thirdly, the waters of Hiroshima Bay provide a suitable environment to organize "aggressive amphibious landing operations in complex maritime areas".
Frequent military moves of Japan and US raise regional tensions
It is reported that Japan has dispatched the transport ship JS Osumi (LST-4001) and the US Navy has sent the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) to participate in this exercise. Zhou believes that the scale of the exercise is expanding. USS America is the most advanced amphibious warfare ship in the US military, with a displacement of 45,000 tons. Japan's Osumi transport ship has a full-load displacement of 14,000 tons and has a strong overall amphibious combat capability. Judging from the participating forces, the focus of the exercise is to organize joint amphibious landing operations with full elements under complex situations.
There have been frequent military moves between Japan and the US recently. From February 16 to March 12, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the US Marine Corps conducted a joint exercise codenamed Iron Fist and the exercise venue switched from the US to Japan. Zhou pointed out that this made the direction of the exercise clearer. Compared with the joint exercise conducted by Japan and the US near Hiroshima Bay, the Iron Fist exercise has a larger scale and a stronger purpose. The Iron Fist exercise aims to train the US-Japan joint forces to land on enemy-held islands to enhance their joint amphibious combat capability. The change of exercise venue is another move by the US to implement the Indo-Pacific Strategy and provoke regional military tensions.
Japanese people are concerned
The military moves of Japan and the US have caused a significant public backlash in Japan. On February 28, Japanese citizens and opposition party members held another protest against the 2023 defense budget passed by the Japanese House of Representatives. However, this has not affected Tokyo’s recent announcement of plans to purchase 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US to enhance its "ability to attack enemy bases." This is a manifestation of Japan and the US strengthening their military alliance and abandoning the path of peaceful development.
Zhou believes that if the Japanese government continues to seek military development regardless of public opinion and willingly acts as a vassal of American hegemony, it will bring many unpredictable impacts to its own security and development. Binding itself completely to the US’s chariot will undoubtedly cast a shadow on the peace and stability of the region and bring uncertain futures to the Japanese people.
Editor's note: Originally published on military.cnr.cn, this article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.